Saturday, March 16, 2013

Review: A Ben, Chon, and O threesome by Don Winslow



I recently read THE KINGS OF COOL, re-read SAVAGES, and watched the movie adaptation. Below are my thoughts on the Ben, Chon, and O threesome, starting with the prequel, THE KINGS OF COOL.
 
The Kings of Cool: A Prequel to SavagesWinslow’s Bruen-like delivery of Ben, Chon, and O’s story prior to SAVAGES is sparse, lean, and subtle yet not without substance. It’s a style that leads the reader deep into their own imagination while still populating the written landscape with enough direction and keynotes to maintain a consistent yet vividly well rendered train of thought. Spanning past and present crimes, THE KINGS OF COOL encompasses the lives of Ben, Chon and O in a beautiful interlocking plot that not only binds their friendship but unearths their family lineage and path towards their present day involvement in the drug business.
 
This one has a bit of everything in it. From O’s love and hero-worship of Chon, drug wars, shady cops, to family drama and close encounters with death. The exploration of the Southern California drug trade through the 60’s to early 2000’s paints a culture of violence handed down by generation starting from some unlikely sources. Ben emerges as a serious player despite an adversity to violence, while on the other hand, Chon rules the streets with an iron first – but what happens when that fists lands square in the face of someone he least expected?
 
The dialogue is witty and humorous, reminiscent of Elmore Leonard at his best. It’s instantly readable and at once addictive. Fans of Winslow will appreciate the flashback sequences where characters Frankie Machine and Bobby Z make cameo appearances. THE KINGS OF COOL goes a long way to establishing interconnectivity with other Winslow titles – now to go back and re-read them all, first up SAVAGES (earlier review below).
 
 
SavagesThe Baja Cartel want Ben and Chon to grow weed exclusively for them, so much so that they send a rather confronting video to Chon for his viewing pleasure. One could say Ben, Chon, and O have got themselves in over their heads...
 
And so starts a non stop thrill ride of drugs, sex, violence, and big business cartel warfare.
 
When I first read SAVAGES, I was blown away by how engaging the characters were and the second time round is no different. O is unique, funny, and deeply in love with her boys, both of whom freely share her heart and bed. She's the innocent victim of the Baja Cartels greed and thirst for expansion.
 
Ben and Chon, now having read THE KINGS OF COOL are that much cooler - if possible. Winslow is really onto a winner with this semi odd couple - one a violent and take charge through violence, the other, a negotiator with a Zen-like outlook on life.
 
As for the story, Winslow doesn't miss a beat. There's enough back-story to make the characters feel real while the action clocks breakneck speed. I love the approach Ben and Chon take to raise enough money to meet the cartels requirements. It's a blood romp through California sun, shine and drug warfare.
 
My original take was much less comprehensive but remains true: Great characters, fast moving story and non stop action. The Bruen-like prose was well executed - Winslow has adopted this style and made it his own. (Jan 2011)
 
 
Now on to the adaptation and like most, the cinematic rendition of Winslow's near perfect novel SAVAGES didn't translate entirely true to the source material though the effort was commendable. Initially I was a little sceptical over the casting of Blake Lively as O - however I think she played the character well enough despite having to work with less background and humour as O's character in the novel. I was particularly disappointed to see PAQU, O's mother mention only in passing, whereas the interactions between her and her daughter were enjoyable and added substance to O. That aside, Blake Lively put in a decent performance.
 
Ben and Chon though were cast well and executed nearly 100%. I didn't find them deviating from novel al that much - these two were the most pleasing aspect of the move.
 
Lado is a bad man in the book and is equally if not more so in movie - there are some added touches that really highlight how dangerous and unpredictable this character is, notably his treatment of the kidnapped O. That said, a key element was missing from book with Lado's wife written as a little more than a bit player - there is one scene in the book which seals Lado's fate - this was missing in the movie as the screenplay took a slightly different path.
 
Don Winslow's SAVAGES is a quick, precise and constantly moving and evolving story. The movie, while keeping true to these theme was a lot longer in duration than I had anticipated. Fast readers could realistically read the book completely in less time than it would take to watch the movie from beginning to end.
Overall I was satisfied with the adaptation but had hoped for a little more. I think if O was given a deeper backstory and had her trademark humour and care free attitude brought to the forefront then SAVAGES would've been something special. I will re-watch this (as I bought the BluRay) but wont be going back to it as often as the book. For me, the movie gets a 6.5 out of 10.
 
 

1 comment:

  1. Liked Savages, hated the movie, will have to read the prequel

    ReplyDelete